Having planned many family trips in the past, there are a few things that I’d recommend thinking about prior to going on a vacation. Here are five financial aspects to look at when planning a vacation.
- Activities. Where are you going to go for vacation? What activities interest you and your family? These activities will likely be determined by how old your children or other guests are. My kids are big enough that we can go just about anywhere for vacation now, but when they were younger our choices were fairly limited. For example, if we chose to go to Disneyland (which we did), we would have to plan for at least two days to allow for naps for the children. This made the vacation more expensive because of additional days for activities, food, hotel rooms, etc. You’ll need to determine the cost of tickets, entry fees, rental fees, etc. for the activities you plan to attend. Make sure you check adult vs. children’s pricing and taxes to ensure proper allocation of your money for the vacation. Put these funds into your spreadsheet and what they are for.
- Hotel Accommodations. My husband and I have five children, so we always must get at least two hotel rooms. This can get pricy depending on where we choose to stay. I tend to gravitate toward the hotels that are in the middle of the price range. While I do love the accommodations some of the pricier hotels offer, they just aren’t necessary for my family. You’ll need to decide what type of hotel you want to stay in and what you can afford. A determining factor may also be the distance between your hotel and the activities you plan on attending. Keep two or three options on a spreadsheet with pricing, distance from your activities, and accommodations that appeal to you.
- Gas / Airfare. How are you going to get to your destination? Is your destination close enough to drive, or will you need to drive? If you plan to fly you’ll need to check airfare pricing. You can check multiple airports. Your flights will likely be determined by where you want to fly out of, time when you want to fly out or arrive at your destination, and possible accommodations / availability of what you are looking for from the airport. If you are close enough to drive, then you’ll need to look at how many miles you’ll be driving, determine time to arrive at your destination, and determine the cost of your gas. Put these figures into your spreadsheet as well. I always recommend rounding up a bit on gas costs to allow for a possible detour or delay in your travel plans
- Food. Yes, it’s difficult to determine how much you’ll be spending on food, but a good guestimate rounded up will give you a fairly accurate depiction of your food costs for your vacation. You’ll need to determine what you’ll be doing for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Your activity destination may provide food. You’ll want to research what they offer and pricing. You should check to see if your hotel offers a continental breakfast. This will help reduce costs for you. Lunch or dinner can be the big meal. I recommend one or the other; not both. If you choose dinner, then lunch could be something fairly inexpensive… maybe a local salad place. Knowing where you’re going to eat for what meal prior to leaving can help reduce anxiety. Don’t forget to factor in money for drinks and snacks for the drive or in the airport. If you are flying, will you need a rental car, will you use a shuttle, will you walk, or will you need to use taxi’s to get around? Budgeting for your transportation is important. Put these amounts into your spreadsheet.
- Extra Funds. Will there be other things that you’ll want do while on vacation? Will you want to go sight seeing, possibly purchase a souvenir or two, or maybe purchase a new outfit or pair of shoes? Set aside some money for these extra funds and put this into your spreadsheet.
Now that you’ve looked at the financial aspects of your vacation, look at your spreadsheet to determine how much you will take in cash, what your limits will be on your credit / debit cards, etc. Financial planning prior to taking a trip or vacation can help give you the peace of mind that you need to actually enjoy your trip.